Archive for the ‘Novel’ Category

                                 Photo and Bio courtesy of her publisher, Canonbridge, LLC
Today on writer Wednesday we have another debut author with her first book coming out from Canonbride, Cathleen Holst.  She can be found on her website, Facebook, twitter, and her blog.
BIO: Born and raised in Atlanta, Cathleen Holst is a “Georgia Peach” whose stilettos are firmly planted in the South.  She has no desire to relocate anywhere good old fashioned sweet tea is not readily available.  She lives just outside Atlanta with her extremely patient husband, their three children and two rambunctious dogs.  Although her love of literature is not confined to one particular genre, it has always been the “feel-good” stories that have resonated with her. Calling her stories “chick-lit” does not offend her in the least.  For her, these delightful easy reads are as perfect as the cherry sitting atop a banana split.  Her debut novel, The Story of Everleigh Carlisle, will be released in November of 2010.
JS:  Thank you for joining me today, Cathleen.  It’s a pleasure to have you.  When did you begin writing, and did you always envision being an author?
CH:  Writing is something I’ve always loved doing. Even as a young girl I remember writing stories, but it was something I always kept very private. I remember writing a short story for my history class during my sophomore year of high school, which I based on the Salem Witch Trials. Ms. Ray, my history teacher, returned the stories and had written a note on the top of my paper that I will never forget. In red ink she wrote, “You’re a great writer.” The seed was officially planted, but I never thought seriously about writing until I read a book (that I will leave nameless) in 2009 that I really enjoyed. The story was great and highly addictive (I literally could not stop reading). The writing, however, was mediocre at best, and I thought if writing like that could get published, than certainly mine could.
(JS:  Hmm, I wonder what book that is.  😉 )
JS:  What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?
CH:  The feeling of such accomplishment I have once I complete a novel has to be one of the best feelings in the world. Second to that, (and I can only imagine) when a reader tells you how much your book means to them. I know I adore my books and each one has touched me in some way or another. I can only wish that after reading my book, the readers feel the same connection to the characters that I felt.
JS:  The most challenging?
CH:  I would have to say the most challenging thing, for me, is finding good blocks of uninterrupted writing time. My mother-in-law has been so helpful in that respect and watches my four year-old a couple days a week for me. That is such a huge help. But on a technical note, that would have to be the outlining process. I find it almost impossible to outline before I start writing. I will get an idea and just start writing like mad, but inevitably stall around the third or fourth chapter. That’s when I start outlining or really what I like to call my “what if’s”. I’ll take my idea and twist and turn it in as many different directions as I possibly can until I get something I like.
JS:  Tell me a little about your book, “Everleigh in NYC.”
CH:  Oh dear. This is something I have yet to master, how to tell a little about my book without reciting my five-page synopsis…articulately. Let’s see if I can do this. It’s about a small town girl with big city dreams who mistakes one dream come true for the real thing, while letting the other walk away.
JS:  Can you tell us a little more about how you conceived the story?
CH:  I wish I had some type of prolific answer like how the story came to me in a vivid dream, or I was sitting on train and had this sudden burst of inspiration, but sadly I have none of that. I literally had no idea what I was going to write about when I began. All I knew was that I had this burning desire to write something…anything. I had no outline, no plot ideas, not even the name of a single character. I just started typing the first thing that popped into my head. And that’s how Everleigh was born.
JS:  When you write, do you always know where you are going, or do your characters lead you in their own directions?
CH:  In the beginning I usually have a general idea of how I want the story to progress, but it’s not long after that when the characters take over and I just follow their lead. If I don’t listen to them, they tend to get very angry and will stop speaking to me for a while. Just recently my MC stopped speaking to me for a couple of weeks. She didn’t care about my looming deadline; the only thing she cared about was that I was trying to make her do something she absolutely did NOT want to do. I got the hint and things are flowing smoothly again and she’s quite happy.
JS:  What advice do you give to budding writers?
CH:  I’ve said this before, but if writing is what you want to do never stop writing and don’t let rejections get you down. It’s all part of the business. John Grisham, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and countless others…they’ve all received rejection letters and after receiving mine I was now a member of that club. That’s some great company to be in. If you want it bad enough, it will happen. Don’t let a few “no’s” stop you from pursuing your dream. Another piece of advice I would give is to take your time when writing your first novel, and get as much HONEST feedback as you can. That means stepping outside your comfort zone and sharing your writing with others who are not close friends (unless your close friend is also a writer) or relatives. It may be painful sometimes, but believe me it will help you grow as a writer. I received a comment about my writing once that almost had me in tears, but once I calmed down I realized everything this person had pointed out was spot on. In the end it was the best comment I’d received.
JS:  What were some of your favorite books when you were growing up?
CH:  When I was a young girl I loved “Amelia Bedelia”. But as odd as it sounds, as I got older I didn’t read much. If ever. (maybe I shouldn’t say that.)
JS:  What’s a typical day like for you?
CH:  I try to wake up as early as possible. I tend to be most creative in the early morning. That doesn’t last long, though. With three kids (two who are school age) and a husband, the house begins to stir early. Once the kids are off to school and my husband is at work, I try to squeeze in as much uninterrupted writing as I can before my youngest wakes up. Then it’s off to the races with breakfast, countless juice refills, lunch, laundry, cleaning the house, grocery shopping and somewhere in there I fit in my workout and a shower. It’s madness, really.
JS:  How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?
CH:  For my chick-lit novels, anywhere from six months to a year. Historical fiction, those tend to take a bit longer due to the time needed to dedicate to research.
JS:  How many have you written?
CH:  I have four works in progress. Of course, at the moment I’m only concentrating on “Everleigh in NYC”. Aside from that I have “The Pink Dress Collection” which will be a three-part series (that I cannot wait to get back to) and two historical fictions.
JS:  Can you tell us more about your journey?
CH:  It’s been quite a ride. I’ve had several setbacks during the time I was writing this book. The biggest was the death of my father. He passed away before I could tell him I was writing. I wanted to surprise him once the book was complete. Now I’ll never have that chance. Aside from that, it’s been amazing. When I sat down in front of my computer to write something all those months ago, I never in a million years thought I would be sitting here answering questions trying to promote my debut novel. I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
JS:  Prada or Gucci?
CH:  Yes, please.
(JS:  Ah, a girl after my on heart.)
JS:  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
CH:  I would just like to thank you, Jessica, for taking the time out of your own busy schedule to interview a fledgling novelist like me. I also need to give a huge shout-out to my dear friend Tamara. If it wasn’t for her reminding me (almost on a daily basis when I was at the lowest point in my life) not to forget about this book, that I had truly done something special, I may not be where I am today. Yes, I have a long way to go, but I have come so very far. Tamara, I will be eternally grateful to you; for your patience, for your ear, and most of all for putting up with my flakiness. I love you, girl! You get me!
And to my readers, I just hope you love reading “Everleigh in NYC” as much as I’ve loved writing it.
JA:  You’re welcome, and thank you for sharing with me today.  

Don’t worry, guys, when it gets closer to the release of her book, I’ll rerun this interview so you can refresh your minds.
If I have anymore authors (or editors or agents) out there that would like to share with me and my readers please contact me at j.souders  (at) jsouders (dot) com. 

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Today on the interview block I’ve had the distinct privilege of interviewing the uproariously funny author, Steven Novak. Please join me in extending a little Southern hospitality—and fresh squeezed lemonade—and welcome him to my humble blog.  He can be found on his website, blog, or FB page.
BIO:  Born in Chicago, Illinois, Steven Novak has spent the majority of his life drawing, writing, and creating. In doing so he’s forsaken things like a personal life, social graces, and good hygiene. After spending four years at the Columbus College of Art and Design, in Columbus Ohio, he moved to California and married a woman able to look past the whole hygiene thing. He has spent the last ten years working as a freelance illustrator, designer and writer for a wide variety of clients in both print and web media.  Steven’s book Fathers and Sons, will be released in March of 2010 from Canonbridge.  He is collaborating with Paul Wood, illustrating Here Comes Cousin Albert, which will be released in April of 2010.
 (Bio, cover art, and author picture courtesy of Canonbridge, LLC.)
JS:  When did you begin writing, and did you always envision being an author?
SN:  I suppose I’ve been writing all of my life, though I never for a second imagined becoming an author. For years the first thing that came to mind when hearing the word “author” was some guy with an expertly manicured mustache, sporting a pair of dark glasses that’s dressed head to toe in black with one of those silly little beatnik hats on his head.
Maybe he’s sitting in a coffee shop puffing away at a cigarette or something.
Later he has a political rally of some sort to attend.
It’s weird, I know.
I was into comic books as a kid, but it was more because of the pictures than the story. Painting, sketching, scribbling, drawing – these were my first loves, and if I’m honest they remain so to this very day. If I’ve had a bad day I tend to reach for my sketchpad before my laptop.
Still, I’ve always had a love affair with books and enjoyed the act of writing. It didn’t come naturally the way drawing did though. I knew early on that I was going to have to put in some effort if I wanted to get any good at it. Unfortunately effort and I have a history of going together as well as a Thanksgiving dinner with the Hatfields and McCoys.
JS:  What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?
SN:  Mostly just clearing out some space in my grossly overcrowded head. It’s spring-cleaning. There’s far too much going on up there and if I don’t dump some of it onto the curb for the garbage man to haul away I would likely go bonkers. I could give a more standard answer like, “watching as my characters come to life and begin to breathe before my eyes” or something along those lines, but in truth they’re already alive inside my head anyway.
I talk to them all the time. It scares people.
I won’t deny that there is something undeniably fulfilling about knowing – if I’m lucky – someone out there might read, and enjoy, and fall in love with them as much as I however. There’s some vanity involved I guess. I’ll fess up to that much. It’s not the most important thing though, and it’s not why I do what I do. I write, or paint, or film little movies because I have to. It’s what I’ve always done, and what I’ll always do. It helps me sort things out for myself, and quite honestly keeps me sane.
Which is a pretty astounding feat.
You know, because I’m a bit of a weirdo.
JS:  The most challenging?
SN:  Without a doubt it’s the technical stuff. Up until about five years ago I was still using the wrong “your” in my sentences. It’s not that I’m an idiot – because I like to think I’m a fairly intelligent man – it’s just that I didn’t much care. I don’t think I ever took the act of writing seriously enough to be bothered with the little things – you know, like “proper grammar.”
Another big issue for me is that my head is “The Flash” and my fingers are your ninety-four year old grandma lugging a couple tanks of oxygen behind her – more often than not they can’t keep up.
I know what I want my characters to do, what I need them to say, and where I’d like them to be while they’re saying and doing it. That being said, I often have to stop myself and figure out the ideal way to express what they’re doing, saying, and why in the world anyone in their right mind should care about the lot of it. 
JS:  Tell me a little about your book.
SN:  “Forts: Fathers and Sons” is the first in a three-part series telling the story of a group of kids that stumble through a doorway leading to another world and find themselves caught up in a war in which the fate of the universe is at stake. It’s epic scale stuff that I tried my best to tell on a very small scale. A lot of people have asked me what age group it’s for and my answer is that it’s part young-adult, part adult-adult, part adult that refuses to grow up-adult.
Does that make any sense?
Maybe not.
Long story short, there’s a lot going on. I touch on friendship, and creativity, hint at youthful infatuation and love, and even delve fairly deep into child abuse – which is the aspect I think will catch most people off guard.
JS:  Can you tell us a little more about how you conceived the story?
SN:  In one form or another it’s a story I’ve been writing for twenty years now. The overall theme of the entire series has popped its way into just about everything I’ve ever done.
Except when I painted my living room the color my wife told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to paint it…
It wasn’t there.
The lead character has a whole lot of me in him – right down to the hair – and there are nods to people I’ve known or met over the years. I find it easiest to write what I know. Anything else comes off not only feeling weird, but false. I like to think that I managed to sneak some meaty, worthwhile stuff in-between the sword battles between giant turtle-men and overly muscled lizard soldiers with forked tongues. Hopefully there’s a little something for everyone to relate and latch onto.
JS:  When you write, do you always know where you are going, or do your characters lead you in their own directions?
SN:  Know where I’m going? As Whitney Houston might say, “hells to the naw.”
Don’t get me wrong; I have a rough outline in my head. I know where the story is going to start and how it’ll end for the most part. In fact, as of this very moment I know exactly what the last two words on the very last page of book three are going to be. This is despite the fact that I haven’t even written twenty-five pages yet. Beyond that however, I generally like to let things go where they’re going to go.
If I write my characters into a situation and can’t come up with a logical way to get them out of it, guess what – they aren’t getting out of it.
Forcing the issue doesn’t make any sense to me.
JS:  What advice do you give to budding writers?
SN:  The same advice I give to any artist working in any medium – if your only reason for doing it is to get rich, don’t bother. You’re missing the point. On top of it all you aren’t likely to make any money anyway so you’ll not only end up broke, but disappointed as well. The term “starving artist” exists for a reason, and it’s not because we’re all living in mansions, and sipping drinks brought to us by members of the opposite sex in outfits so skimpy they would make Lindsay Lohan blush.
If you’re going to do this, first and foremost do it for yourself. Do it because it’s out of your hands. Do it because you’re compelled to do it – because it fills a void, and because you can’t imagine doing anything else.
Do it because you love it.
JS:  What were some of your favorite books when you were growing up?
SN:  There are so much of them I hardly know where to begin. Lets see – I stated earlier that I was a big comic book nerd growing up so something like Allen Moore’s “Watchmen” absolutely blew my mind when I was a kid. “The Dark Knight Returns” was another, as well as “Maus: A Survivors Tale.” In junior high and high school I started delving deep into science fiction stuff – pretty much anything by Ray Bradbury, and of course “The Time Machine,” “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “1984,” and a million others.
Considering the kind of stuff I’m writing these days a lot of people find it odd that I never got into the “Lord of the Rings” or anything like.
Movies were a big thing for me growing up as well – more so than books maybe. At thirteen I was already filled with an almost terrifying obsession with Alfred Hitchcock. While everyone else was rushing to the theater to see “Indiana Jones” I was hunting down Beta-Max copies of “Strangers on a Train.”
Needless to say, it didn’t make me many friends.
(JS:  I have to interject that I LOVE Alfred Hitchcock and that is one of my favorite movies of his.  Good on you for picking a wonderful obsession.  J )
JS:  What’s a typical day like for you?
SN:  Despite having not gone to bed until one in the morning, I generally wake up around six, wipe a few crusty boogers from my eyes and wobble on Frankenstein legs into the office to get to work.
The brunt of my income comes from graphic design and illustration work, so that’s first on the agenda. Four or five hours are spent wading through emails from clients, making obscure – sometimes entirely unnecessary – font changes and staring mindlessly at the computer screen. Seeing as I’m lucky enough to work out of home I generally bother with a shower, or for that matter a pair of pants until well after lunch.
Trust me on this – you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten your lunch while your hair is still so bed-stiff that it’s sensitive to touch.
My wife of nine years is the absolute most wonderful, caring, intelligent woman I’ve met over the course of my life. I’m a lucky man to have her. That being said, she couldn’t cook a can of microwaveable soup if her life depended on it, and because of that I generally handle the cooking chores for the evening.
Unfortunately I usually don’t get around to writing until long after the sun has gone down, and I can hear my same loving wife snoring from the other room.
JS:  How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?
SN:  It took me a year to finish “Forts: Fathers and Sons” and another year to finish the follow up, “Liars and Thieves.” To be fair though I ended up having to remove myself from both of them for two or three months at a time while writing.
When writers block hits me, it hits me like a slab of concrete to the noggin tossed in my direction by the world’s strongest man. I don’t bother trying to work through it because the stuff I write when attempting to do so is usually pretty awful. For me personally it makes more sense to let it pass on its own. If it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work and there’s no point in forcing it.
JS:  How many have you written?
SN:  I’ve started and quit so many novels over the years that I couldn’t even begin to count them.
Counting the novels I’ve actually finished is a far easier task however – in fact, I can do it on one hand.
JS:  Can you tell us more about your journey?
SN:  It’s been a long one. I’m still pretty young, so hopefully there’s a lot left. Growing up my mother would often call me “old man Novak” because I tended to not do things other kids my age were doing.
There was also the fact that I couldn’t stand when those sticky candy-mouthed rascals would ride their bikes on our lawn!
I got married when I was twenty-one, found myself with a stepson only eight years my junior, and there’s a chance I’ll sort of, kind of, be a grandfather before my thirty-third birthday.
When you think about it, I’ve lived a fairly accelerated life. If things continue on this way, maybe there isn’t much of a journey left. Maybe I’ll be sitting in an old folks home by the time I reach forty and pooping my diapers again by forty-five.
It’s been a heck of a ride though, and I wouldn’t change a single moment.

JS:  DC comics or Marvel?

SN:  Ahh…there it is, the ultimate fan-boy question. I suppose it was only a matter of time before it reared its ugly head. You’re trying to expose my nerdiness, Souders – trying to see just how high I rank on the nerd scale.
You’re a tricky one. I’ve underestimated you. I shall not make this mistake again.
Honestly, I’ve always leaned toward Marvel and I think it has to do with the fact that despite the superheroes, and the villains, and the alien races, and the mega-battles between superheroes, villains and alien races – Marvel always felt more like it existed in the real word. The DC universe is closer to pure fantasy for me, and I’ve never found pure fantasy quite as interesting. I like my characters grounded in something I can relate to.
JS: Superman or Batman?
SN:  Rorschach.
(JS:  Nice choice!  I have to admit that, that’s one of my favorites too, though he is a little…scary?  J)
JS: If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
SN:  You’ve succeeded marvelously.
Ask the person sitting to your right for a high five.
JS:  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
SN:  Please buy my book. I really need you to buy my book. I promise you’ll like it. Please? Come on, I’ll be your best friend.

Does that sound too needy?
Maybe so.
Seriously though, I would like to thank my publisher, “Canonbridge” for seeing something in the novel that no one else did. I have a stack of rejection letters so high I could probably form them into a crude paper mache table with a matching set of chairs that I could then use to type another novel on.
I also want to thank all the people that I’ve met over the years while blogging and whatnot. The encouragement and friendship has meant a lot – more than they’ll ever know, and certainly more than I’m willing to say out loud for fear one of them will sarcastically respond by telling me to “go home and put on a tutu.”
Despite the dinosaurs, and the swords, and the epic battles on far away lands, there’s an awful lot of myself sprawled across the pages of this series of books. I’ve always been a glass is half-empty sort of guy and a notoriously hard critic of my own work, but I’m fairly proud of what I’ve done here.
Believe me, if it were garbage I’d be the first to point out. I would honestly feel like kind of a jerk for trying to pawn it off to you.

 Thank you for joining us today, Steven and please let us know when Forts is available, so we may buy it.  And for the record, I fully expect my copy autographed. 

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 Here’s an excerpt from my adult romance novel Maid of Honor.  It needs some work, but it should be good enough for a teaser.  Enjoy!

“God, I hate weddings,” Ariel proclaimed, tossing her controller on the bed. She watched as it bounced once, before switching the television off.
 The whole beautiful disaster that was flowers, and music, and what cake to have.  And don’t forget what color dress, and how to stand for this picture and that picture.  Ugh. It was just too much.  That is why I’m never going to do it.  They were just too much of a bother and God knew they never worked.  What were the recent statistics?  Over fifty-percent of all marriages failed?  Yeah.  No, thank you.
            “Well, it’s not your wedding, Ari,” Cat reminded her.  “It’s mine.”
            “Ah, yes, but as your maid of honor I’m expected to go through absolutely every awful stage of this thing with you.  You’re going to want to know if pink or red roses are better or should you hire a DJ or a band?  Sit down or buffet?  Not to mention the hours of invitation addressing.”  She shivered at the thought. “Then you’ll cry or scream at me when I don’t pick the one you wanted to begin with.”  She knew. She’d seen it before. 
How many times have I been a bridesmaid now?  She counted them quickly in her head.  Six, she’d been a bridesmaid six times in the last five years. What was that statement?  Always the bridesmaid, never the bride?  Not that she wanted to be the bride.
            Cat’s whispery laugh echoed through the phone lines. “I’m not going to be that bad.  Promise.  The whole big wedding is to appease our mothers anyway.  They’ve pretty much got the whole damned thing planned out for us.  So, please, please, please will you be my maid of honor?”
            Ari ran her ring-studded hand through her black hair. She hated it when Cat used that tone of voice.  It always crumbled her control.  “Damn it. I hate when you beg.  Fine. Fine.  When is it?” she asked.
            “In a month.”
            Ari’s jaw dropped.  “A month?  Are you crazy?  Why so soon?”
            There was a long pause, and then Cat asked, “Why not?”
            “Why not? I’ll tell you why not.  There is no physical way you can get everything taken care of in a month.  I can’t even comprehend the fact that you’re doing this but…wait…you’ve never rushed into anything in your life.  That’s my job.  Why so soon?” she asked again. 
            Cat sighed, making a sound like static on the phone line. “I just want to. Anyway, I’ll explain everything when you get here.  You’re coming for two weeks anyway.  Can’t you just extend the trip?”
            Knowing Cat could keep her mouth glued tightly shut when she wanted to, Ari glanced at her calendar.  She didn’t have anything pressing to do and her boss was harping on her to use up all her vacation time this year. She’d just have to see if she could use it all up at once.  “I don’t know. I’ll have to call my boss and find out.”
            “Great,” Cat said.  “Call me when you know. Toodle-loo.” She hung up, leaving Ari staring at the phone.  Why is she always doing that?  Back you into a corner until you had no choice but to agree, than leave you standing there to figure out the details on your own.
             Shaking her head, Ari punched in the numbers for her boss and crossed her fingers that she would side with her.
She should have known it, she thought, an hour later. Everyone is insane.  Who knew my bitch of a boss actually had a soft streak for weddings in that icy heart of hers? 
            “Go, go,” she’d said. “Weddings are fun.  So romantic.  Go and bring back lots of pictures. I just love weddings.”
            Damn it, Ari thought as she packed. The one person I’d hoped could stall the inevitable had failed me.  Now what? 
            Now, I fly to North Carolina and watch my best friend fall into the trap of Holy Matrimony.  Lovely, she thought with a grimace.
* * *
            Wonderful, Josh thought with a scowl, simply wonderful.  Not only had he gotten roped into marrying his best friend’s sister, now he had to go pick up her best friend from the damn airport. What did she have to come so early for, anyway? The damn circus–oh wait, that’s marriage, how could I forget?– isn’t for another month anyway
            He stared at his watch. The plane was late.  Figures. The damn things never came on time.  Especially when you needed them to.  He really didn’t have time for this.  He had other, more important, things to do.  Like supervise the construction on that pretty little Victorian he was restoring. 
            Idiots.  Who in their right mind would try to “modernize” a Victorian?  Well, at least with his restorations, the old lady would once again shine. Probably even before the wedding.
            He looked at his watch again.  Where the hell was that damn plane and how was he even supposed to recognize her?  All Cat had said was, “Pretty, with black hair and blue eyes. My height. Thin.”
            Nice description, Cat. How many thin women with black hair and blue eyes are going to get off that plane? He’d reserve judgment on the pretty part.  Most women thought their pals were pretty.  Didn’t mean they actually were.
            And what the hell kind of name was Ariel anyway?  Didn’t the mermaid have red hair?  And if she was named after Shakespeare’s Ariel, wasn’t he a guy? 
            Just then he saw a fairly attractive woman of about thirty with black hair step through security.  Straightening his shoulders he walked up to the woman, who was holding her bag to her body as if terrified that someone would steal it.
            “Hi. I’m Josh. Uh, Cat sent me instead of Connor.  I’ll take your bag for you,” he told the woman, who just kept staring at him like he’d lost his mind. He felt a hand on his arm and looked over to see another dark haired woman.
            He goggled at her.  She was simply stunning.  Her hair wasn’t really black, more of a sable, and there were yards of it.  Her eyes weren’t simply blue, either. They were cobalt and just as striking as the rest of her.  She was petite. A curvy five-two, he reckoned.  And all of it leg. 
            When she smiled he almost swallowed his tongue.  “Hi. I think you’re looking for me. I’m Ariel Sutherland.” 
            This was Ariel? She couldn’t have been older than twenty-five.  He turned away from the other woman who took off like a mouse who’d just escaped from being eaten.
            He grinned at Ariel causing her to blink. “Hi.  Josh Stanton.” He held out his hand and she took it without hesitation.  That is, until he brought it to his lips and kissed it. 
            She raised an eyebrow, trying to pull her hand away when she felt sparks shoot up her arm at his touch.  “You’re Cat’s fiancé, right?”
            He grimaced.  He’d forgotten for half a second he was engaged and wasn’t too happy she’d reminded him of it. “Yes,” he said and took her bag from her, slipping her arm through his. 
            She let him lead her to his car, but didn’t say thank you when he opened the door for her.  How rude, he thought, obviously manners weren’t something they taught in New York. He tossed her bags into the trunk and then drove away from the airport. She was staring out the window, but he could see her quite plainly glaring at his reflection.
            What the hell did I do? he asked himself. He tried a few more times to start a conversation, but she only ignored him or answered shortly, continuing to glare at him in the glass.
            Giving up, he drove the rest of the way in silence.  When they pulled into the driveway of Cat’s parents’ house, a beautiful old plantation home, she visibly relaxed. When she saw Cat, with her long blonde hair, blue eyes, and long, lean figure, waiting on the wrap-around porch, she started bouncing on the seat.  Weird woman, he thought, as she tore out of the car toward Cathy before he’d even put the car into park.
* * *
            God, what a creep, Ari thought, watching Josh on the other side of the dinner table.  The way he had stared at her in the airport should have been illegal.  It had made her blood pressure skyrocket before she’d reminded herself he was her best friend’s fiancé. 
            Well, to be truthful it wasn’t just his stare that had done it.  It was the thick wavy brown hair that had just begged for her to run her fingers through it and the eyes -the same color as her grandma’s prized jade elephant- that did nothing to detract from his tough, sharp jawed face. Even the small scar on the bridge of his nose was sexy.  She shivered, remembering how his eyes had clouded with just a hint of desire when they’d looked at her.
            Then, remembering, she scowled.  He was taken.  Not just taken, but taken by her best friend.  That louse, she decided.  Already fantasizing about other women and he isn’t even married yet.  Maybe he didn’t want to be married, she thought. 
            If he didn’t want to get married, why was he?  It’s not like he had to.  Even if Cat was pregnant it’s not as if her father would make them have a shotgun wedding.  She pursed her lips as she thought about it.  Maybe it was a shotgun wedding. This was the South, after all. She tried sneaking a glance at Cat’s stomach, surreptitiously.
            Idiot, Ari thought, shaking her head, she wouldn’t be showing yet
            The front door banged open and Connor, the male equivalent of his younger sister, Cat, slammed through. 
            “Well, really, Connor.  Can you make any more noise?” Amelia, Cat’s mother, demanded.
            He grinned at her. “Sorry,” he said, his blue eyes scanning the room until he saw Ariel sitting by his father, Colin.  His smile got larger and he leapt across the room in three large bounds, picking her up and kissing her soundly.
             “There you are, gorgeous.  How was your flight?” he said, oblivious to his mother’s shocked stare.
            Just fine,” Ari replied, ignoring his demonstration.  He’d done the same thing every time he’d seen her, ever since they’d dated five years earlier.
            “Connor, sit down this instant and leave Catherine’s guest alone,” Amelia said.
            He grinned again and sat in Ari’s chair, pulling her with him and into his lap.  His mother scowled at him, but he didn’t release her. “How’s my best girl?”
            “Perfect, now that you’re here,” she told him, glancing over at Cat who was grinning at her.  Cat was way too used to the openness of their friendship to be concerned. But when Ari looked over at Josh, he was scowling at her. 
            Wonder what got his nose out of joint, she thought, before turning back to Connor.  “So, what was so important that you couldn’t pick me up from the airport?” she asked.
            He smiled and whispered in her ear, “What else would keep me away?”
            Ari laughed, knowing the only thing that would keep him away would be another woman. 
* * *
            Josh sat on the front porch enjoying a cold beer.  One of those rare moments in his life he usually enjoyed.  The hot, muggy air and a cold beer. Listening to the cicadas croon along with the crickets.  Even the mosquitoes weren’t a bother tonight.  But, not even the calm of the evening could relax him tonight. He wasn’t enjoying the sounds of the cicadas or crickets and, while he appreciated the mosquitoes finding their dinner elsewhere, he really couldn’t have cared less. He was annoyed.  And that annoyance held a name, along with its shapely figure.  Ariel Sutherland. 
            His reaction to her was simply male hormones, he told himself.  What man wouldn’t want her? Jesus. She had legs up to her ears and her voice had poured through him like warm brandy on a cold night. If that didn’t set a man’s nerves to humming, nothing would.
            It wasn’t any of that that was bothering him.  No sir, it was how she’d responded to him.  Warm and friendly one minute. The ice-queen the next. And it was obvious that she only had a problem with him.  Look at the way she’d responded to Con.  No ice on her then.  Betcha he’s had a piece of her, Josh thought with a scowl. 
            So, what? It’s not like you’re interested.  She’s your fiancée’s best friend.  Shit, now how did that happen?  He was going to get married.  Not for another month, but he didn’t want to be married.  Never wanted to be married. He saw his parents’ marriage.  Not a marriage, a farce.  Not a very funny farce, though. More of a cataclysmic disaster.
            Why they still lived in the same house was beyond him.  It wasn’t sex that was for sure. As far as he could tell, they hadn’t so much as slept on the same side of the house since he was ten. 
            And now, he was letting them do what his father’s parents had done to his father.  Forcing him to marry someone he didn’t love all for the family name.  How pathetic.  He should have said no. He should have put his foot down. 
            But no, his mother and father had ganged up on him and he’d caved.
            “Joshua, you are thirty-three years old.  It is time you settled down and married.  Since you haven’t found someone suitable, we have found someone who is,” his mother, Debra, had told him.
            He’d laughed and poured more brandy. “Who do you believe is suitable, Mother?”
            “Catherine Kordovan,” she’d said with a smile.
            He’d set down his brandy with a snap of glass against wood.  “No, she’s one of my closest friends. Practically my sister.  I refuse to destroy her life, and our friendship like you and dad did.  For some stupid ideological bullshit about bloodlines and heirs.”
            His father stood up. “You will marry her or I’ll cut you off.  I’ll make sure that every trust fund you have is cut off and if it can’t be, it’ll spring a leak.  By the time you hit thirty-five it’ll all be gone. Then how are you going to fund your precious house-flipping business?”
            Knowing his father all too well, Josh knew he’d make good on the threat, so he’d agreed to the marriage. And he’d asked Cathy.  To his great surprise, she’d agreed.  Now they were to be married and he was miserable.
            He looked up when he heard laughter and saw Ari and Connor start up the walk from the gardens.  He had his arm around her and she was leaning into him, her face lifted to his, and her mind-blowing smile on her luscious lips. 
            Josh scowled into his drink before he could entertain any thoughts in that direction.  Nope, that would cut off his trust fund faster than refusing to get married.  She was exactly what his mother termed unsuitable.  Gorgeous, but unsuitable.  Any woman who looked like a Playboy pin-up had to be, didn’t she?
            Connor and Ari glanced over when they walked up to the porch and Connor stopped laughing.  “Hey, Josh, why the long face?” he asked.
            Josh looked up and over at Ariel pointedly. “No reason.”
            Ari laughed, knowing that she was the problem, and kissed Connor’s cheek. Serves him right, she thought.  “I’ll see you later, Connor,” she promised, and ignoring Josh completely, flounced into the house with hips swinging.           
            Connor stared after her, and then sighed and patted his heart. “I love being a man.” He sat down next to Josh.
            “Isn’t it hard to make time with her through all that ice?” Josh asked.
            “Ice? On Ari? Man, have you got it wrong,” Connor told him, stretching out.
            “She was nice enough when I first met her and, Jesus, her looks stab right through you, but the minute we hit the car she iced up.”
            “What did you do?” Connor asked, looking at him. “Ari’s the nicest woman I know.  Most are vindictive little wenches in pretty gift-wrap. Not our little Ari, though.  She’s as sweet as they come.”
            Josh snorted. “Yeah, right. I’ll believe that when I see it.”
            Connor twisted his body to look at him. “What did you do?” he repeated.
            “I didn’t do anything.”
            Connor laughed. “You did something.  Ari isn’t one to turn ice-bitch for no reason.”
            “She asked me if I was Cathy’s fiancé and I said yes.  That’s when she went all ice-queen on me.”
            “Connor?” Ari’s voice called out from the door.  “Your father wants you.”
            “Damn.  I’d better go,” Connor said jumping up.  “It’s probably to discuss the ‘business’ again. I really hate that.”
            Josh chuckled and waved his friend away.  He heard his footsteps go into the house, then Ariel’s as she walked on to the porch. “May I?” she asked, gesturing to the space beside him. She’d heard what he’d said about her and thought it better to try and be friends, at least until the wedding.  Then, she could forget all about him.
            When he shrugged, she sat next to him.  “It’s beautiful here. I keep forgetting that.”
            “So, you’ve been here before?”
            “Yes, I used to come with Cat on our school breaks.”
            “Didn’t want to go home?” he asked, rudely. When she didn’t respond he looked over and saw sadness on her face. 
            “No. I didn’t really have a home to go back to.  My parents died when I was three. Car accident.  My grandmother raised me, but she died right after I graduated high school.”
            Insensitive clod, he chided himself. Stepped in that one. Keep that up and she’ll never like you.  Not that he cared whether or not she did.  “Sorry.”
            She turned her face to him and smiled. His breath caught in his throat and he had to turn away so he could breathe again. “It’s okay. I don’t really remember my parents.  And it’s been almost ten years since Nana died. It’s just a bittersweet memory now. I miss her though.  She was an awesome woman,” she told him.
            “Ten years?  How old are you?”
            He spun around to stare at her. “You graduated high school at fifteen?”
            She smiled and his heart skipped a beat.  “Yeah, I’m a good student. My grandmother pushed me, but not too much.  I was the one who decided to go as fast as I did.  I preferred it.  I wasn’t really good around other people so I studied,” she said, shrugging.
            He stared out over the backyard, trying to control the hormones surging through his body. What is with that smile? It should be banned as an illegal substance.  “It was good of you to agree to be her maid of honor,” he finally managed. 
            She frowned. “I guess. I’m not into the whole let’s-go-crazy-and-spend-the-rest-of-our-lives-together, thing. Usually ends up in divorce.
            Boy, did he agree with that. “Or worse,” he muttered.
            She looked over at him, her cobalt eyes searching his face. “Or worse,” she agreed. 
            “Yet, here you are,” he pointed out.
            “She’s my best friend.  There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for her.”
            They were silent again, then she blurted out, “Did you knock her up?

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I don’t know if a lot of you have seen my posts lately, but I’m finally out on submission.  I say finally like it hasn’t been a blink of an eye since I found my wonderful agent.  But I want to clear up a few misconceptions I’ve been noticing lately.  First, my agent isn’t my agent because I paid her.  In fact I will never pay her.  She will pay me—in a matter of speaking. 
The way an agent works is she looks through her (used loosely.  There are wonderful male agents as well) slush pile (the stack of unsolicited manuscripts, partials or query letters they receive) to find something that interests her.  Usually it’s with a query letter so we’ll start there.  She reads the query letter and decides she likes it enough to read more. 
Now with my agent she had the first 50 pages and my synopsis, so she was able to keep going.  From the query she read my first 50, determined she liked it, and then read my synopsis.  Since she liked that as well, she asked for the rest.  After reading the rest, she offered me representation. 
When I accepted, she sent me her notes.  I edited my MS based on those notes and sent it back.  Then she read it through again, sent me her notes, and I edited it again and sent it back.  This process can keep going for awhile folks, but in my case it’s stopped here and we moved onto submission.  Now it’s in her hands and I feel a little awkward. 
Why?   Because it’s a little like the querying process to find an agent, but it’s in someone else’s hands now.  She’s doing all the work.  Researching where and who to submit to, when to nudge, perfecting the pitch letter, etc.  I’m perfectly confident she’s going to find me the perfect match for my MS, but it’s hard relinquishing control like that. But that’s why you want your agent to understand you, your MS, and love your MS as much as you do. 
So you may have noticed I have not once mentioned money exchanging hands.  And that’s because it hasn’t.  I have not paid her a single penny.  She is essentially working for me for free. 
How does she get paid, you may ask?  Well, she gets paid when I do.  When a publisher makes an offer it’s usually offering an advance and then a royalty off the cover price of the book.  Since my agent will make 15% of everything I make, including the advance, it’s in her best interest to get the best deal. 
The publisher will send her a check with my advance; she takes her 15% and then gives the rest to me.  It will be the same with royalties.  So as you see, I never pay her anything. 
As you might have guessed that is why agents are so picky.  They are essentially working for free until your MS sells.  If it doesn’t sell, then they don’t make money.  So they need to find MSs they fall in love with so they can champion it properly. 
So, how can you make sure yours gets picked up?  Write a good book, get feedback on said book and edit appropriately.  Research agents thoroughly and query widely. Be patient.  In the meantime, write a new and better book and start the whole process over again.  Eventually you will get picked up. 
I hope this shed some light on agents and how they work.  So how about you?  What’s your experiences been like?  I’d love to hear from you.
Tomorrow, contests.  What they’re about and how they can help you in your career.

If you’re an agent, editor, or author and would like to do an interview or guest blog with me please contact me at j.souders (at) jasouders (dot) com

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Well we’ve had a slight change of plans.  Today I’ll be interviewing Lynn Rush. 
BIO:  Lynn Rush began her writing career in 2008, since then producing thirteen paranormal romance novels.
She enjoys posting to her blog, Light of Truth (http://lynnrush.wordpress.com/), six days a week and actively participating in FaceBook and Twitter.
She is actively involved with Romance Writers of America (RWA) and its special interest chapter Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FF&P) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW.)
 Lynn has both an undergraduate and graduate degree in the mental health field and has enjoyed applying that unique knowledge to developing interesting characters. She is a member of two online critique groups, comprised of both published and unpublished authors, specifically focusing on fiction for the younger adult. In addition, she enjoys volunteering in her church bookstore.
When Lynn’s not writing, she spends time enjoying the Arizona sunshine by road biking with her husband of thirteen years and going on five-mile jogs with her loveable Shetland Sheep dogs. She always makes time to read a good speculative fiction novel, her favorites being Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, PC Cast, and Stephanie Meyer.
Lynn, thank you for joining us today.  First I’d like to congratulate you on not only winning the Write Your Name Across the Sky Author Contest for 2009, but also securing a publishing contract AND obtaining a wonderful agent!
JS:  When did you begin writing, and did you always envision being an author?
LR:  I didn’t really start writing until a few years ago. Way back, around 2002-ish I had a little idea and did a little jotting down (by hand) in a little notebook on lunch breaks. But I was totally just goofing around. I lost the notebook, never really gave it much thought after a while.
See—I’d never wanted to be a writer. Heck, I hated reading, how could I ever be a writer, right?
Yeah. Blame the not liking to read thing on graduate school…ugh, reading all those textbooks would kill anyone’s desire to read EVER again. Just kidding (well, sort of.)
No. It was back in summer of 2007 that I decided to get Light of Truth (first book ever) on the computer. Finished it November 2007 but had NO clue what to do next. So, I joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) in May 2008 and got into my first crit group.
After that, the stories flowed, and I’ve written 13 novels since then.
JS:  What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?
LR:  Meeting so many amazing people has to be the first one. The second would be, learning a new skill. I never took a writing class or anything before I started writing, so I learned as I went (as evidenced by the first couple books, which will probably never leave the shelf…LOL.) There are a bunch more rewarding aspects, but the last one I’ll mention is how much fun I have losing myself in the worlds and characters I create. It’s so much fun to laugh and cry with them and torture them with crazy obstacles to overcome!
JS:  The most challenging?
LR:  Hmmm, not really sure. I don’t see much of anything that’s challenging, probably because I never really expected it to go anywhere. I guess the waiting can get tough sometimes. There are often long waits associated with agents, editors, and even contest results.
Oh—wait—I thought of one. . . A challenge is the cost of it all. Money-wise, it’s expensive to go to conferences and buy learning-the-craft books. It can get costly. So I’d say that was a challenge. 
JS:  Tell me a little about Violet Midnight.
LR:  It’s the fourth book I ever wrote and one of my favorite characters. I even had Emma host my blog for a week recently. She’s just so fun. Tough, yet broken. Oh, but can she kick some demon butt!!
The easiest way for me to describe the book is to share the back cover blurb with you. Is that okay?
The blurb:
Three years ago, Emma Martin awoke in a hospital, forever changed. Her brown eyes turned violet, and she had a mysterious tattoo on the inside of her wrist. With the help of Gabriel, a mentor turned love interest, she discovered she was a hunter of the undead. After he’s brutally killed by the very evil he trained her to vanquish, she rejects her calling and seeks out a new life.
Emma pursues a normal existence by attending college. Hiding her unique powers proves difficult because the mystical tattoo on her wrist burns when evil is near, and the heat does not dissipate until the evil is vanquished.
When Jacob Cunningham witnesses Emma using her powers and isn’t afraid, the walls she’s erected around her come crashing down. Her draw to him is intense, but she’s not sure she can trust him with her secrets or her heart.
JS:  Can you tell us a little more about how you conceived the story of Violet Midnight?
LR:  Much like how I came up with all my novels, I woke up one day with an idea. Maybe it was a dream that I didn’t remember having, but I just woke up one day and started writing. It’s been that way with almost all my novels.
The writing starts with what’s called a mind map. It’s just like an organized form of free thought. In the center of the page I had “Emma Martin” in a circle, then started drawing lines out from it with ideas, obstacles, etc.
As I wrote, the rest just kinda fell into place.  J
JS:  When you write, do you always know where you are going, or do your characters lead you in their own directions?
I RARELY know where I’m going with a story. My characters pretty much drive my stories.
LR:  What advice do you give to budding writers?
Write on. Yep—I often put that down when I comment on blogs or Facebook status’ because it’s true. Just write on. Keep going. When you’re waiting for a response from an editor/agent/whoever-write. When you’re waiting in the doctor’s office-write. When you’re waiting—okay, you get the idea. Any free moment you find-write. J
JS:   What were some of your favorite books when you were growing up?
LR:  Ahhh—I hate this question. J I see it asked all the time on blogs and such, and technically, it’s a really great question. But for me…I really don’t have a favorite, because I didn’t grow up reading. I watched a ton of movies, though. Like all the sci-fi and paranormal-type movies. Probably where a bunch of my ideas started percolating, huh?
Heck, I read Frank Peretti’s book, “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing The Darkness” April of 2006 and that’s when I really started reading.
After Peretti, I fell in love with Ted Dekker’s books, and then found Charlaine Harris, PC Cast and Stephanie Meyer. So I really don’t have a long track record of reading, that’s for sure.
JS:  What’s a typical day like for you?
LR:  I’m a creature of habit, that’s fore sure. Get up around 5-ish, do a quick Bible devotion, go running or biking, do some writing, go to the day job (write over my lunch break), then come home and cook dinner for me and my sweet hubby, then write the rest of the night.
I’m sooooo boring—ask anyone.
My weekends pretty much look the same, but instead of going to the day job, I write. J
JS:  How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?
LR:  About 7-21 days, depending on the circumstances. When I was unemployed for four months, I wrote four novels. Each took about 7 or 8 days. But that’s writing full-time. When I’m working a day job, it takes about two to three weeks, depending on how full my weekends are.
Now remember, that first draft is a mega rough draft. The real fun starts during the edits.  J
JS:  How many have you written?
LR:  Can you tell us more about your journey?  (How did you find out about the contest?  How did you find your agent?  How long you’ve been writing, etc.)
I found out about the contest on the FF&P loop (Romance Writers Association’s Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal group). So, I checked it out, sent in my entry, and let me tell you NO ONE was more shocked than me to see Violet Midnight won!
I still can’t believe it sometimes and I’ve even seen the book cover for Violet Midnight!!
Within three days of learning about the contest win, I signed with Super-Agent Cari Foulk from Tribe Literary Agency. I found TribeLit by following them on Twitter. I loved what they and some of their authors tweeted about, so I queried her. My writer friend, Frank Redman, was represented by her as well. So it all came together through a query and a referral!!
JS:  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
LR:  Write on!
No, seriously, thanks for interviewing me. This was fun.
Thanks again for taking the time for this interview and good luck with your first book.  Make sure to keep us all informed so we know where and when to buy it!
If anyone is interested in doing an interview with me, please feel free to contact me at j.souders (@) jasouders (.) com.  

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Here’s just a few tips I’ve used that have been beneficial to me.  It’s probably close to essential for me actually and I’d like to think that it’s probably close to that for all fiction writers out there.

  • Start With a Seed
  • Most, if not all, of my books are simply a product of asking the question, “What if…?”  That’s all it usually takes and then let your imagination run wild.  There are no constraints in fiction, except the ones you put on yourself, so start tiny and work big. 

  • Let the Story Tell Itself
  • Think of yourself as only the narrator of someone else’s life.  In the newage sense of the word, your “channeling” someone else’s reality and cataloging what happens.  It’s okay to plot, but don’t get so caught up in your outline that your not letting the characters be themselves.  

  • Use Realistic Characters and Dialogue
  • This is accomplished through many different approaches.  As a writer, you must learn to hone your powers of observation and watch people and how they interact.  Research can come in a variety of forms, from reading other authors to watching movies as well.  Keen observation skills and personal experience will help guide you through this aspect of fiction writing.

  • Write What You Know
  • This is a well-known mantra for fiction writers, yet many fail to adhere to this simple principle of fiction writing.  When you write about things you know and experiences you’ve had, the writing is easier to read and comes across as more authentic.  Another thing is to write in the genre you read.  Don’t start writing Sci-Fi if you’ve never and have no interest in seeing Star Trek(or any other Science Fiction staple).  

  • Become a “shut in”
  • When you’re ready to start, find a place away from distraction  If you are planning on writing a long work of fiction, you will essentially be “living in the story.”  Be prepared to shut yourself in as you work on bringing your tale to life.  Turn the phones off, as well as the Internet.  Let your significant others know you’ll be unavailable from this time to this time.  If you have kids, this will be a bit harder, but it can be done.

  • Keep Moving Forward
  • Don’t get caught up in the past; keep writing each day without taking time to go back and reread.  You’ll have time to fix everything later.  Even if you only spend 10 or 15 minutes everyday writing, it’ll keep you on the right track and stave off writer’s block.  

  • Put it Away When You’re Finished
  • When you’re finished, put it away.  Shove it in a drawer, ignore the file on your harddrive.  Whatever it takes to let it sit and settle for awhile.  I usually send mine to a critique partner and it can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 months to get your ms back, so you’ll have a decent length of time between the finish and the revisions.  In the meantime…

  • Start a New Project
  • Get started right away on a new WIP to increase the space between you and your previous work.  This will help you to come back with a new perspective and keep your productivity level high in the process.  Not to mention keeping your creative juices flowing.

  • Return to Your Finished Product
  • After some time has passed, pull out your manuscript and read the piece with a pair of fresh eyes.  Chances are you will find ways to improve upon and revise the story to make it flow more smoothly.  Sometimes it will unfortunately mean rewriting it.  As what happened to me with my first, FALLEN.  I went back with fresh eyes and realized how horrible it was.  Now I’ve rewritten it, given it a new title and it’s MUCH better than it was.  

  • Revise and Edit
  • Cuts will have to be made and the revision process can be time consuming, but will help out when you’re ready to share your work with at least 5 beta readers.  Make sure that you polish your work as much as possible before giving it out to others for their opinions.  Eliminating clutter and proofreading errors will help to get honest feedback without trivial details getting in the way.  Keep in mind though, that no matter how well you edit, there will always be something you miss and don’t let it fluster you.  No one is perfect.

    I hope these 10 tips helped and gave you a little insight on how I do my writing process.  How do you write?  Is there something you do that I didn’t mention?  Go ahead and post your answers in the comments section.

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                                  (Bio and photo courtesy of her publisher, Canonbridge.)


    Today I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing a good friend of mine, fellow inkslinger and wonderful fantasy novelist, MJ Heiser.  
           BIO:  MJ Heiser was born in the Philippines to an American Navy Mormon and a Filipina Catholic.  She came to the United States as a baby, started reading at the age of three and began to write at the age of 12.  Educated in San Antonio, Texas, MJ is an avid student of religion, politics, anthropology and technological gadgetry.  She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and their menagerie of pets and electronic devices.  Apart from writing, she spends her time walking, plotting, being silly, eating sushi and trying to not trip over something.  Her first book in the Chronicles of Jaenrye series is Corona, published first in eReader format in February 2010 by Canonbridge LLC.
    JSFirst of all, thank you for joining me today.  What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?
    MH:  The most rewarding thing for me is the realization that I could be good at something, even if I was born with an atrocious singing voice.  That’s a traumatic thing to realize as a little kid born into a family of musicians.  
    JS:  The most challenging?
    MH:  I have a fragile ego, so being told my work isn’t good enough for anyone is brutal.  Fortunately, I’ve also learned to take it as much-needed guidance and a refreshing breath of honesty; after all, your friends are conditioned to tell you what you want to hear, right?
    JS:  What would you say are the most important qualities one needs to possess in order to make a living as a writer?
    MH:  Stubbornness, and the ability to hear the small voice of your story calling to you .
    JS:  Why do you write?
    MH:  Because it makes me feel good . . .it puts me in touch with something that I imagine is outside of myself, a river of creative thought and urge that runs through each of us.  Every now and then I dip my ladle into that stream and pull out a sip of Wonder.
    JS:  What’s a typical day like for you?
    MH:  Long.  Frustrating.  I have a full-time job as a claims examiner, then I come home to run a house full of dogs and cats.  –No, they’re not charity cases, but I’m childless, and they’re my little Surrogates.  All I want to do is plot my stories and write them, but real life has a habit of delaying gratification.
    JS:  Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you work through it?
    MH:  Unlike most writers, I don’t really hate writer’s block.  I think there are times it comes up for practical reasons — like, maybe you need a reminder of how much you love to write, and only by depriving you of the ability can you fully appreciate it.  Sometimes also it’s used to divert you from a bad story idea, or a good story idea executed badly.  Most of the time, writer’s block is specific to one story, and can be overcome by stepping away from that story for a bit and working on an intriguing new one.  When you finally return to the blocked story, you can probably see why you got blocked in the first place.  😉
    JS:  How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?
    MH:  Oh, there are no generalities when it comes to what I write.  My first (and worst) novel took 10 years.  (See what I mean about listening to the writer’s block?)  CORONA took 5.5 weeks for the first draft.  CANTICLE, the prequel, is almost a year in progress.  Seriously, it’s just all over the place.
    JS:  What’s your favorite quotation?
    MH:  Sadly, it’s from an anonymous source:  “Those who dance are considered insane by those who can’t hear the music.”  A lot of people attribute it to George Carlin, but sadly, it’s not his.
    JS:  What are you working on now?
    MH:  CANTICLE, the 2nd (or 1st, depending on how you look at it) in the Chronicles of Jaenrye (pronounced “JANE-RYE”).  Sheesh, she’s a true labor of love.  CORONA was a blast to write, but CANTICLE is, I think, maybe just that much outside my skill set.  I’m learning as I go. 
    JS:   What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions aspiring novelists have of the writer’s life?
    MH:  That it has to be lonely.  I know I thought all writers were forced to write alone and figure it out alone, but in this day and age, with Twitter and Facebook and WEbook, there is simply no need to be alone anymore.  Besides, writers are my favorite kind of people; they’re just like me!  🙂
    JS:  What advice would you impart to these aspiring novelists?
    MH:  Don’t suffer; there’s no need.  Don’t hide your babies; that’s not the point of writing.  Get out there, make your work available to review, and push, push, push.  This dream doesn’t come true on its own. 
    JS:  Where did the inspiration for CORONA come from?
    MH:  Some of the aspects of CORONA (the Travellers, for instance) have been in my head since I was a kid.  The story itself started with Father Rey, who was inspired by Father Oliver O’Grady, a pedophile priest who was shuffled by the church from one small California town to another when his abuses were discovered.  I sucked this guy into Jaenrye to find a way to make him pay for what he did.  Then, since I was controlling the story anyway, I made the control a little more…transparent. 
    JS:  What do you hope your readers take away after they’re done reading?
    MH:  Never, EVER give up on your opportunity to make it right with yourself.  If you ever feel a tinge of regret or failure, address it head on; become the hero you promised yourself you’d be when you grew up.  It’s never too late.
    JS:  Tell me a little about CORONA.
    MH:  CORONA is my one breathless moment, the story that made me laugh and cry as I wrote it, the one I made my truest writer’s promise to.  I promised I would not abandon it and let it be forgotten.  That story truly took my breath away, and she deserved my full attention.
    JS:  Thanks for doing this interview with me MJ, it’s been a real pleasure having known you and reading CORONA.  I can’t wait for its sequel(prequel) to be released.  Now I have just one last question. If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?
    MH:  From what I can tell — yes.  🙂
             Thanks again for joining me folks for my very first author interview!  Next week I’ll be interviewing S.S. Michaels AKA @slushpilehero for all you twitter followers.  
             If you are interested in doing an interview with me, please email me at J.Souders (@) jasouders (.) com.  

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